Sunday, March 25, 2012

Taking Some Sewing on Your Travels

I've taken a few trips since I started quilting again. Several of these trips involved leaving Texas to visit family in Louisiana. Other outings were sewing-related, like an Austin Modern Quilt Guild mini retreat and International Quilt Festival in Houston. Each time I travel with the goal of sewing on the go, I learn how to do it better. That is, I've made many mistakes and unnecessarily traveled with an insane amount of sewing paraphernalia. I want to help you avoid the inconvenience.

1. What can you do that doesn't involve sewing?
You may have a new quilting book you want to read or need to crack some of those magazines you bought and still haven't opened. You could catch up on some blogs while you travel. Think about the quilting-related things you want to do that don't require fabric!

2. Identify your goals.
Is a deadline looming? Do you have to sew on this trip, or do you just want a project to keep your hands busy if you have downtime?

3. Communicate your goals.
If you MUST sew on a trip, tell your fellow travelers. They'll appreciate you letting them know you have to sew after dinner and can't join them for drinks.

4. Set your own expectations appropriately.
You can't sew as efficiently anywhere else as you do in your own sewing space with all of your tools and your entire stash handy. Quilting on the go is not going be like quilting at home. Even at a retreat, half the fun is socializing with other folks. Often, taking a trip means going to see someone or spend quality time with your trip mates, so realize you may never end up touching the project you brought along.

5. Plan on something portable.
Don't travel with your sewing machine unless you have to. It's heavy. It's inconvenient to disassemble and set up somewhere else. Plus, every time you move your sewing machine around, you risk a clumsy accident that could result in having to get it serviced.

Good portable projects involve hand sewing like English paper piecing, hand quilting minis, hand sewing binding to the back of a quilt, and hand embroidering labels.

6. Do your design work ahead of time.
Don't travel with yardage thinking you're going to do a bunch of cutting on your biggest cutting mat with a 24" ruler. I do better if I make fabric choices and cut fabric ahead of time. When working on rose star blocks, I can pin a paper shape to fabric at home, cut the fabric, and save the basting and whip stitching for the trip.

7. Have the right tools.
When you do want to take off for a sewing retreat with your machine, make a checklist ahead of time and be sure to check it twice. It would be terrible to show up at a retreat without your sewing machine pedal!

Do you travel and sew? I'd love to hear about the lessons you've learned - from tips or personal experience!


  1. Every time I go to Fort Worth to visit family, I pack my sewing machine and projects because I know my aunt and I will be sewing. I try to plan ahead and get projects cut out so they are ready to be pieced. My only mistake on those trips is that I bring too many projects and never have time to finish all of them.
    And I usually try to take binding projects with me, even for short trips. I worked on binding yesterday at a family gathering and I will sew some more binding on my break at work today.

    1. Yes! Taking too many projects. I've been guilty of that on every trip. I even toted along my WIP Storm at Sea on my last trip. Foolishness. I'm not going to solve that quilt's issues on a trip to be sure. Definitely I'm going to be following your lead on cutting things ahead of time. That's definitely a solid strategy.